Florida's long coastline and numerous springs, lakes and rivers support fishing both as entertainment and as a thriving commercial enterprise.

State officials have been involved in regulating the fishing industry, especially the use of nets, since the 19th century. In 1889, the Legislature authorized the governor to appoint commissioners of fisheries. These officials would select sites for protected fisheries and enforce laws regarding the use of nets and other equipment. By 1955, Florida was a national leader in the commercial fishing business.

Fisherman's seines on the St. Johns River (187-)

Fisherman's seines on the St. Johns River (187-)

Image number: RC13695

Seine nets hang vertically in the water and can be dragged to catch fish.

Oyster packing houses and frames for drying fishnets:  Apalachicola, Florida (1895)

Oyster packing houses and frames for drying fishnets: Apalachicola, Florida (1895)

Image number: PR00333

Young man with cast net (ca. 1905)

Young man with cast net (ca. 1905)

Image number: N030574

Cast net users often hold part of their nets either in their mouths or thrown across one of their shoulders. This helps the net open before it hits the water.

Salvador's Fish and Oyster Market: Fernandina, Florida

Salvador's Fish and Oyster Market: Fernandina, Florida

Image number: PC0948

Solicito “Mike” Salvador, an Italian immigrant in Fernandina, experimented with different shrimping nets to increase catch size.

Four main types of fishing gear were used: entangling gear, encircling gear, impounding gear and dragged gear.

Impounding gear includes traps, lift nets, dip nets and cast nets. This kind of gear is designed to quickly move fish into an enclosure to prevent escape. Unlike most entangling and encircling gear, impounding gear is generally deployed directly by hand to capture a much smaller number of fish.

Fishermen using cast nets can cast either from the shore, a pier or a boat. They watch for fish and then cast the net in the direction of the fish they want to catch. Weights all around the edges of the net cause the edges to sink quickly while the middle sinks slowly. This creates a dome that captures the fish inside.

Man casting net for mullet: Riviera Beach, Florida (1939)

Man casting net for mullet: Riviera Beach, Florida (1939)

Image number: PR25436

Accompanying note: "Evenings, boys cast for mullet to be sold as bait to the party boats."

Allowing the nets to dry in between uses helps extend their life span.

Nets drying at the docks: Riviera Beach, Florida (1939)

Nets drying at the docks: Riviera Beach, Florida (1939)

Image number: PR25437

Boys sleep in the fish house on the idle nets: Riviera Beach, Florida (1939)

Boys sleep in the fish house on the idle nets: Riviera Beach, Florida (1939)

Image number: PR25442

Bob Kyle casting his fishing net: Bahia Honda Key, Florida (1949)

Bob Kyle casting his fishing net: Bahia Honda Key, Florida (1949)

Image Number: C011109

Commercial fisherman Elisha "Pappy" Turner working on his seine net in Naples, Florida (1949)

Commercial fisherman Elisha "Pappy" Turner working on his seine net: Naples, Florida (1949)

Image Number: JJS1299

H. O. Marshall knitting a cast net: Apalachicola, Florida (1958)

H. O. Marshall knitting a cast net: Apalachicola, Florida (1958)

Image Number: C026996

Seine nets drying at a dock: Marco Island, Florida (1959)

Seine nets drying at a dock: Marco Island, Florida (1959)

Image Number: C031409

Encircling gear includes a variety of seine nets, such as purse seines and beach seines. Beach seines are deployed in a semicircle shape and dragged toward the shore to capture the fish caught within the semicircle. A purse seine is deployed in a complete circle around a school of fish. A line passing through a series of rings at the bottom of the net is then tightened like a drawstring to prevent the fish from escaping.

Mullet fishermen: Shell Point, Florida (1965)

Mullet fishermen: Shell Point, Florida (1965)

Image Number: DD0488

Net maker Joe Floyd in his shop: Jacksonville, Florida (1985)

Net maker Joe Floyd in his shop: Jacksonville, Florida (1985)

Image Number: FS861951

Entangling gear includes gill nets, winding nets and trammel nets. These nets are placed where fish will swim into them but are unable to swim out after becoming entangled in the mesh.

Gill net: Eastpoint, Florida (1986)

Gill net: Eastpoint, Florida (1986)

Image number: FS88553

Close-up of the otter trawls that hold shrimp net open on sea floor (1986)

Close-up of otter trawls that hold shrimp nets open on sea floor (1986)

Image number: FS86300

Rickey Doublerly knitting a fishing net: Jacksonville, Florida (1988)

Rickey Doublerly knitting a fishing net: Jacksonville, Florida (1988)

Image number: FS91504

Detailed view of a fishing net being knitted by Rickey Doublerly: Jacksonville, Florida (1988)

Detailed view of a fishing net being knitted by Rickey Doublerly: Jacksonville, Florida (1988)

Image number: FS91507

Shrimp nets: Jacksonville, Florida (1988)

Shrimp nets: Jacksonville, Florida (1988)

Image number: FS91512

Dragged gear refers to nets pulled behind boats. A shrimp trawl, for example, is a flattened conical bag, tapered from the mouth to the tail, that is dragged over the sea bed. It is towed behind a vessel by two long warps at speeds of 2½ to 4 knots. As shrimp become caught in the net, they are moved to a bag compartment at the rear, which will be hauled onto the boat and emptied.

Lloyd's Seafood shrimp trawling net - Apalachicola Bay, Florida (1986)

Lloyd's Seafood shrimp trawling net: Apalachicola Bay, Florida (1986)

Image number: FS881141

Dale Davis brings trawl net on the deck: Apalachicola Bay, Florida  (1986)

Dale Davis brings a trawl net on the deck: Apalachicola Bay, Florida (1986)

Image number: FS88639